I know, I promised no more saints, but that was before I realized that today was St. Blaise Day. St. Blaise, you may remember, was our protection against choking on fishbones and other harsh maladies of the throat. He was, of course, deposed by the Church back in the sixties, along with such inspirations as St. Christopher (patron saint of travel--the Catholic Hermes) and St. Philomena. Poor St. Blaise. I don't suppose there would be any point in stopping at the local Catholic church to get my throat blessed before I look for a parking spot.
St. Blaise was one of the early Christian martyrs (c. 316 A.D.), a bishop in Armenia, who hid in a cave among wild beasts to escape persecution by the Romans. He was good with animals. Hunters found him when they were looking for animals to use in their nasty pagan games, and carried him off to Agricolaus. On their way, they met a woman whose pig had been snatched by a wolf, and Blaise got the wolf to give the pig back. The Romans were amazed, but they threw Blaise in prison anyway, and he came to about as grisly an end as you could wish for a Christian martyr. Quoth Butler: "Licinius tortured him by tearing his flesh with iron combs, and afterwards had him beheaded." The only light note was that the woman whose pig had been restored brought food and candles to St. Blaise in prison. Hence the blessing with the candles.
St. Blaise is much on my mind today because of a song on Baby Dee's new album, "Fresh Out of Candles." She performed it with her band Friday night at Joe's Pub, the first stop on her U.S. tour. I first heard this song in Amsterdam, and people didn't know whether to laugh or not. I thought it was funny. Then I heard it on the CD and thought it was beautiful and poignant and funny. Now I've read the lyrics and I know that it is about loss of faith, and I still think it's funny, but in a bleak, hair-raising way. It's a great, great song. It's the revenge of St. Blaise.